Teenagers Like Me

At least, that’s what I thought before I started teaching them. When I do Chalk It Up, I have so many people rave about the artwork I’m doing. Teenagers will say “sweet!” or “sick!” or some other modern term of enthusiasm. So I thought, well if they like my work so much I should teach them how.

The reality, at least in a public high school, is that for the most part it is very uncool to indicate you are even a tiny bit impressed by your teacher. Some spend their entire time in class trying to show their friends how ridiculous you are. One or two will even laugh uproariously when you reprimand them or another student, like it’s the most ineffective and ridiculous thing they ever heard.

If you do actually do something impressive, like draw something well right in front of their very eyes, the most likely reaction is dead quiet. They cannot bear to admit that the teacher has done something cool.

One of the vice principals here told me that the appropriate approach is to not try to impress, just teach. Be goofy all you want because the students don’t see you as a “real person” anyway.

But it is a let-down. I thought I would have such a rapport with teenagers. With some I do, I guess. They say hi and smile to me out on campus at lunch. One even waved to me yesterday, enthusiastically and with a big smile, as I was driving out of the parking lot. He was with a small group of friends, not surrounded by 31 other classmates. Because of this difference in attitude it’s like he’s exaggerating, but I hope the moment was genuine. He seems like an up-front kind of kid.

I’m told that things change once you’ve been at a school for a few years. The students stop testing you. Hopefully by then I will have passed their little tests, and I will get more respect and cooperation from them. But they’ll probably never admit that they’re impressed.

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

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